When it comes to focus, I have had a life long battle with……………hey, look at that cat over there!
Hmmm…now where was I? Ah, yes…focus.
For me the inability to focus is a by-product of ADHD. My ADHD is something that I am neither ashamed of nor wear like some retarded badge of honor. Throughout history, many intelligent, good-looking, and well-hung people have had ADHD and it’s just a part of who I am.
However, you don’t have to have ADHD to suffer from a lack of focus.
We are pulled in so many different ways these days, with an unending stream of data and information bombarding us at every turn, that it’s easy to get our attention diverted from what we are doing.
And when it comes to trading, lack of focus can be devastating.
Below are some things I have learned over the years that have helped me improve my focus, not just in trading, but in other aspects of life as well.
Tune Out, Turn Off, Crush It
For a the longest time I was an advocate of turning the sound down on CNBC and other channels of its kind. Then I suggested putting your TV somewhere in back of you so you couldn’t see it. Now I have gone the full route and just turned my TV off. Next I plan to run over it with a steamroller in front of CNBC’s Worldwide HQ, while wearing a Jim Cramer mask.
There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING that you need to see on CNBC that will have any bearing on your trading. Any news that is important you will see in price first. And if you just still need to know why price is moving the way it is, you can pull up your StockTwits stream which I have seen be anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour ahead of CNBC in terms of breaking news.
Trust me, just get rid of it, and you get rid of a foe in your quest to get focused.
Cut The Chat
There are a lot of great trading services out there, and I have advocated subscribing to a number of them. Most, in addition to providing nightly commentary, have a chat room that you can participate in during the trading day. For some people this can be a positive, but for others, it can be a big negative.
Some people have the discipline to only check in with the chat occasionally, in order to get trade ideas or info, but for most I think it can become a distraction.
If you find yourself more interested in responding to what someone just said in the chat room or talking about the latest political news, it might be time to just shut them down.
Katy Bar The Door
Back when I ran my own business, I thought I was the epitome of the cool, hip, boss of the future because I had an “open door” policy. I never wanted it to seem like I was cutting myself off from my employees or was so aloof that they couldn’t just waltz in whenever they wanted and let me know about the latest minute problem.
Nowadays I prefer the “closed-door” policy. In fact, I really prefer the “closed, locked, bolted, with a sign on the front that says, ‘Get The Hell Away From Here’” policy.
I recently watched one of those Discovery Channel shows where “prepper” wackos built doomsday bunkers in their backyards. One guy had his made so that when his unfortunate and unprepared neighbors tried to enter the shelter to find a scrap of bread for their dying infant, a barrage of razor-sharp blades and fire cannons would be unleashed on them, in theory loping their heads off and then burning them to a crisp, possibly to use as an appetizer for that nights “prepped” dinner.
I want that setup at my door. I don’t want to be in the loop if I don’t have to be. I want a quiet, dark, and dungeonesque type office, free from outside distractions.
If someone really needs me they know where I am, and in the meantime I’ve isolated myself from all sorts of distractions that cause me to lose focus.
When I first started trading full-time I dropped 5K getting a custom-made Dell computer that could support four monitors. Then I put two lap tops on either side of me. I looked bitchen ass cool, but it did not help my trading one bit, and during the summer it made my office unbearably hot.
Multiple monitors work for some, but mostly they give you more opportunity to put up crap that will pull your attention away from the markets and your trading.
Do you really need to have Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goolge+, HotGayDudeCams.com, and other social media sites up on your screens while you trade?
One of the most successful traders I know only uses a laptop when he trades. One laptop, for everything. Charting, analysis, order entry, and communications. This really is a case where less is more.
Let Trades Come To You
One of the things that can really cause you to lose focus is to be constantly flipping through charts, worried that you are going to miss the setups and moves you have been anticipating.
A while back I wrote a post entitled “Making Trade Setups Come To You” where I outlined an alert based methodology that ensured that you would not miss out on any trades and relieving you of the related anxiety
Check it out and I assure you it will help you relax and better focus on what is important during the trading day.
Turn Off The Talk.
The process of being more focused in your trading doesn’t start and stop with the opening and closing bell, it’s something you have to work on in your “civilian” life as well. One of the best decisions I ever made was to turn off talk and news radio about five years ago, and put music in its place
Now I listen to about fifteen minutes worth of news when I first get in the car in the morning, and then after that the rest of the day is spent “talk free.”
This is another situation where I promise you, you are not going to miss out on anything important, unless you care about listening to people whose job it is to create divisiveness and controversy purely for shock value in order to get higher ratings.
The type of music you replace it with can be anything that you enjoy, but I would suggest that you put in a healthy dose of classical music each day. There have been study after study done that show that classical music, in addition to relaxing you, can actually make you smarter just by listening to it.
For the best classical music station on Earth, which you can reach via FM or HD radio, streaming internet, or smart phone app, check out www.kusc.com.
Batch The Hell Out Of Everything
Checking email, voice mail, and social media non-stop not only takes up our valuable time, but are activities that just encourage a helter skelter and unfocused way of approaching things.
If you respond to each of those things as they come up, you are never able to keep a consistent and uninterrupted train of thought, which is critical when it comes to retaining focus.
So instead of addressing each of these things as they come up, do everything in batches. Set aside specific periods of time; ten, twenty, thirty minute blocks of time where you will focus only on returning emails, phone calls, checking social media, or taking care of any repeating and distracting issues, which allows for more efficiency, effectiveness, and focus.
You will also find that you can take this technique into other areas of your life.
We already batch things like going to the laundry or taking the garbage out, but have you ever thought of having sex seven or eight times in an hour so you don’t have to worry about it for the rest of the week? Come on, get creative and try to think out of the box.
It Will Take Some Work
You can’t just follow these tips and turn your trading from a disjointed mess to laser focused in a day or even a week, but as you implement them and stick to them, you will find that within 2-3 weeks you should have a new-found ability to focus on your trading as well as other important tasks in your life.